Jamie Elliott grabbed two tries as Northampton Saints came from behind to beat Bath Rugby 25-23 and extend the visitors’ winless streak at Franklin’s Gardens.
The West Country outfit looked to have snatched a first win at the Saints since 2000 when a second-half penalty try and a Semesa Rokoduguni intercept try gave them a lead going into the last quarter of the game.
But five Stephen Myler penalties and touch downs from Elliott in either half ensured the points stayed with the home side and increased the gap between the two sides in the Aviva Premiership table.
Bath had taken an early lead on five minutes when Northampton were penalised at the lineout and fly-half Tom Heathcote made no mistake from the tee.
Saints hit back immediately after Bath were caught offside, giving Stephen Myler the chance to bisect the posts with an eighth-minute penalty as the teams settled into the game.
Bath looked to have the edge at the lineout in the first half with Dave Atwood ruling the roost, but the first try of the afternoon came from a Bath overthrow.
Ben Nutley gathered the loose ball and drove for the line only to be held up short. Northampton recycled the ball and fly-half Myler threw a long mispass to Elliott who collected it on the bounce and collapsed over the line.
Myler couldn’t add the extras, however, and the score stayed 8-3.
Horacio Agulla nearly hit straight back for Bath when he took an incisive pass from Nick Abendanon and raced for the line only for Samu Manoa to pull off a fantastic cover tackle and prevent the score.
Heathcote and Myler exchanged penalties as the score moved to 11-6 seven minutes before the interval.
Bath again failed to make the most of their opportunities as Phil Dowson and GJ van Velze combined to bring down Ben Skirving short of the line late on.
Heathcote kicked another penalty for the visitors, and shortly after winger Tom Biggs hacked the ball clear of the Northampton defence for Abendanon to run onto but with the try line begging the full-back knocked on when it was easier to score.
Trailing at the break, Bath almost made the perfect start to the second half when Heathcote slipped through three tackles and found Abendanon but the Saints defence got back to cover.
Myler steadied Northampton nerves with three quick penalties, highlighting why the Saints were keen to tie him down to a new contract this week.
Northampton looked comfortable going into the final quarter with a 20-9 lead, but referee Luke Pearce threw the result into doubt when he pointed for a penalty try after the Saints infringed at a scrum in their 22.
Heathcote’s conversion made it a four-point game, and Bath completed a remarkable turnaround when Rokoduguni intercepted Alex Waller’s pass and ran the length of the field to touch down.
Scottish international Heathcote added the conversion to give Bath a three-point lead with 12 minutes remaining, but the top four challengers were unable to hold onto their lead as Northampton poured forward.
The Saints pounded the Bath defence for several minutes with a multi-phase attack before Ben Foden engineered some space for Elliott to touch down in the corner.
Myler hit the post with his conversion but it didn’t matter as the home side hung on for the win.